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Nita Lake Lodge well supported at public hearing



A handful of community members express concern about the proposal

The multi-faceted development scheme set to change the face of Creekside prompted more than 30 members of the public to speak out at a public hearing on Monday night.

Some offered their unconditional support of the Nita Lake Lodge development. Others tried to reconcile the increased development along the shores of Nita Lake with the community benefits offered as part of the entire project. And a handful of locals opposed the deal altogether.

The Nita Lake Lodge developers propose to build an 80-room "boutique" lodge at the end of Lake Placid Road, 14 tourist-accommodation zoned single family homes on an adjoining piece of land, a Creekside train station and a sizeable chunk of employee housing. They also plan to preserve a large tract of the sensitive Alpha Creek wetlands.

Because the project has so many different components, many community members focused on particular elements of the development.

Whistler-Blackcomb’s director of employee experience Kirby Brown said he supports the project after looking at the employee housing component, which includes more than 200 employee beds, both for seasonal and long-term workers.

Brown said Intrawest has a demographic of workers who have been living in the community for more than six years with a "desire to remain in Whistler and work for us." Brown said he falls into this demographic himself.

The key issue for this demographic is affordable housing.

Likewise chamber of commerce representative Kathy Barnett, who was speaking on behalf of the chamber’s employee housing committee, offered the chamber’s support for the mixture of employee housing proposed by the developer.

The research shows that there is a specific need for seasonal employee housing much like the proposed apartment-style units she said.

"(It) will go a long way to meet the employee housing needs in Whistler," she added.

There was also a show of support for preserving the 25 acres of wetlands, known as the Alpha Creek lands.

"The preservation of these important ecosystems is one of the objectives of AWARE," said Wendy Horan, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, who spoke in favour of the sensitive land trust portion of the project.

She added that opportunities like the one presented by Nita Lake, where the developers would buy 27 acres of the Alpha Creek wetlands and donate 25 acres to the municipality to preserve in trust, don’t come around very often.

There was also a show of support for the potential tourism benefits from the proposed multi-million dollar train station.